Front Page Titles (by Subject) Chapter V.: MATERNAL ECONOMY. - Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 7
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Chapter V.: MATERNAL ECONOMY. - Harriet Martineau, Illustrations of Political Economy, vol. 7 
Illustrations of Political Economy (3rd ed) in 9 vols. (London: Charles Fox, 1834). Vol. 7.
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If the drought had been confined to the western coast of Ceylon, its effects would have been very deplorable, from the poverty of the people, though, from their being in the habit of the regular importation of rice, they were more sure of some extent of supply than if they had been dependent on their own scanty crops. But this year, the drought extended to some of the districts of the neighbouring country, from which rice was annually imported to a large amount. This, again, would have mattered little, if the inhabitants had had the means of purchasing from a greater distance; but these means could not be within the reach of a colony whose productions were monopolized by the mother country. Hundreds of thousands of the inhabitants of Ceylon who, if allowed the usual inducements to an accumulation of capital, would have been in common times purchasers of the innumerable comforts which the world yields, and in the worst seasons placed far above the reach of want, were reduced by a single delay of the monsoon to such a condition as rendered it doubtful whether they would ever be purchasers of anything. Again, want of capital was the grievance from which all other temporal grievances arose in this region of natural wealth and super-abundant beauty; and this want of capital was caused by the diversion of labour from its natural channels, through the interference of the evil spirit of monopoly.
Streams ran down from the mountains; and on either side of the streams were levels which lay waste and bare for want of irrigation; and on the banks of these streams lived a population which subsisted on unwholesome and unseasoned or deficient food. These waters could not be made useful, these plains could not be fertilized, these people could not be fed, because the natural wealth of the country was not permitted to create capital to the inhabitants.
The cotton-tree might be met with growing luxuriantly wherever the hand of man or of nature had caused it to take root; yet those who lived within reach of its boughs hid themselves in the woods for the scantiness of their clothing, or went without some other necessary, in order to furnish themselves expensively with cotton-cloth which had been woven four thousand miles off. That it should be woven where it was, and sold where it was, was well; but that the purchasers should not have the raw materials to exchange for the wrought, or something else to offer which should not leave them destitute, spoke ill for the administrators of their affairs.
Potters' clay abounded in the intervals between soils which offered something better; and here and there a rude workman was seen “working his work on the wheel,” as in the days of Jeremiah the prophet, and marring the clay, and making another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter. It would have seemed good to him to make better vessels, to improve his craft, and bring up his children to the art, and supply households at greater distance with utensils, and get wealth and contentment, but that he had no money to spend on improvements, and that if his children tried to get any, they could find no free scope for their enterprize.
Herds of buffaloes were seen feeding amidst the rank vegetation of the hills, and many a peasant would have gone among them, morning and evening, with his bottle of hide slung over his shoulder; and many a maiden with her vase poised upon her head, if a free commerce in ghee had been permitted with the Arabs who must drink a cupfull of it every morning, and with the multitude of dwellers in the Eastern Archipelago, who want it for anointings, for food, lot sacrifice, and other purposes which now cost them dear. But the buffaloes might graze in peace, the peasants being permitted to sell ghee only to those who could not buy, or who did not consume ghee.
There were cocoa-nut fibres enough to spin a coir rope which might measure the equator; but coir was so taxed, as soon as it became rope, that the government need have little fear that any one would buy but itself and those who could get no cheaper cordage.
Chay-root, yielding the red dye which figures on Indian chintzes, spread itself far and wide through the light dry soil near the coast. How it should hurt the British government that all nations should have red roses on their chintzes had not been satisfactorily explained; but it was the will of that government that few should do so. The government bought up every ounce of chay-root which its Cingalese subjects were obliging enough to sell. There was much loyalty in thus furnishing chay-root; the diggers being paid a good deal less than half the price which the government demanded from its purchasers.
The fragrance of spices was borne on every breeze; shells of various beautiful forms were thrown up by every tide; tortoiseshell might be had for the trouble of polishing, and ivory for that of hunting the elephant; arrack flowed for any one who would set it running from the tree; canes to make matting and baskets were trodden down from their abundance; the topaz and the amethyst, the opal, the garnet, the ruby, and the sapphire, jet, crystal, and pearls, were strewed as in fairy-land; the jack-wood, rivalling the finest mahogany, ebony, satin-wood, and the finely-veined calaminda, grew like thorns in the thicket; yet the natural proprietors of this wealth, to which the world looked with longing eyes, were half-fed and not clothed; and their English fellow-subjects, located in a far less favourable habitation, were taxed to afford them such meagre support as they had.
The world had rolled back with the Cingalese. Monuments were before them at every step, which showed that their country had been more populous than now, and their forefathers more prosperous than themselves. They were now too many for their food too many for the labour which their rulers vouchsafed to call for; yet they were but a million and a half on a territory which had sustained in more comfort a much greater number, without taxing a distant nation to give unproductive aid to a puny people, and before the advantages of national interchange had been fully ascertained. There were traces of times, before the English artizan was called upon to contribute his mite to his tawny brother over the sea; before the government complained of the expense of its colony; before murmurs arose about the scanty supply of cinnamon, while the Honourable Company was claiming compensation for an over-supply; before the rulers at Columbo began to be at their wit's end to find means for keeping up their credit; before the expenditure of the colony so far exceeded its revenue, as that the inquiry began among certain wise ones where was the great advantage of having a colony which, however rich in name and appearance, cost more than it produced: there were traces of happier times, when the world were to have been wiser, however younger, than at present; or when the Cingalese had been under a wiser sway than that which was now calling upon them for perpetual submission and gratitude. The Dutch might have been hard task-masters; but it was now felt that the English were yet more so; and however much submission might be yielded, because it could not be refused, there was small room for gratitude, as any one would have admitted who could have drawn an accurate comparison between the condition of the foreign and the native, the producing and the commercial, population of the western portion of the island during this season of hardship.
The Dutch-built houses, inhabited by foreign agents, displayed all their usual luxuries; carpeted with fragrant mats, gemmed with precious stones, perfumed with spicy oils, and supplied with food and drinks purchased by native produce from foreign lands. The huts of their humbler neighbours, meanwhile, were bare alike of furniture and food, and, for the most part, empty of inhabitants. The natives of eastern countries seem to find consolation in the open air in times of extreme hardship; not only laying their sick on the banks of rivers, but gathering together in hungry groups by the road-side or by the sea-shore, in times of famine, gazing patiently on the food which is carried before their eyes, and waiting for death as the sun goes down. Such were the groups now seen on the shores of the Lake of Columbo, and in many an open space among the spoiled paddy-fields, while the foreigners, from whom they were wont to receive their pittance, were engaged with their curries, their coffee, and their meats from many climes. Thus was it during the day; while at night the distribution of action was reversed. The foreigners slept at case in their cooled and darkened apartments, or, if they could not rest, had nothing worse to complain of than a mosquito foe, while their native neighbours were silently forming funeral piles along the shore; silently bringing more wood and more from the thickets, as others of their caste dropped dead at length; silently laying out the corpses; silently watching them as they turned to ashes, and placing the limbs decently as they fell asunder; silently ranging themselves so that the funeral fire played in their dark eyes, and shone on their worn and lanky frames; silently waiting till the morning breeze puffed out the last flickering flame, and dispersed the handful of white ashes, which was all that remained of the parent who had murmured his blessing at sunset, or the wife who had whispered her farewell at midnight, or the infant whose breath had parted at the summons of the dawn. Silently were these rites performed; insomuch that any chance-watcher in the neighbouring verandah heard no other interruption to the splash of waters than the crackling of flames, and would not have guessed that bands of patient sufferers were gathered round this fearful sacrifice to the evil spirit of monopoly a sacrifice as far from appeasing the demon as from testifying to the willing homage of his priests. There were not among the gentle Cingalese any of the fierce passions which this demon commonly delights to unleash among his victims; none of the envy, jealousy, and hatred with which the desperately miserable enhance their desperation and their misery. Instead of jostling one another, these sufferers sat side by side: instead of gnashing their teeth at each other, they were altogether heedless of neighbourhood; instead of inflicting injuries, they merely ceased to confer mutual benefits. No aged man complained of violence, but sank down disappointed, when he found the water-pot placed for the traveller's refreshment empty by the wayside.:No wearied woman murmured at being dislodged from the sheltered bench on the bridge; but neither did those, who had niched themselves there to seek forgetfulness in sleep, stir to make way for a fellow-sufferer. No child was driven from its chance meal by a stronger arm than its own; but neither was there a look or a word to spare for the little ones (more tenacious of life than their parents), who crept from their dead mother to their dying father, trying in vain to suck life from the shrunken breasts of the one, and to unclose the fixed eyes of the other. Some who remained in their habitations in the woods, if less destitute, were not less miserable. If the sight and scent of the bread-fruit were too strong tor the fortitude of some, they ate under the full conviction that they were exchanging famine for leprosy. Whether the belief in this effect of the fruit was right or wrong, those who believed and yet ate suffered cruelly for the want of rice. If a follower of Brama, in passing a ruin, saw a cow browsing on some pinnacle, and, in a fit of desperation, called the sacred creature down to be made food of, he found himself gnawed by the consciousness of his inexpiable crime, as fearfully as by his previous hunger. An ample importation of rice such as might always be secured by the absence of restrictions on commerce would have saved to these the pangs of conscience, till a better knowledge had had time to strike root and ripen for harvest, as it would have spared to others the agonies of hunger while their rice-grounds were awaiting the latter rains, and preparing to become fruitful again in their season. As it was, all were prevented making the most of their own soil from want of capital; and, while rendered dependent on the importation of grain, were denied the means of insuring that importation. By the exorbitant taxation of some of their articles of produce, and the prohibition to sell others to any buyer but the government, the Cingalese were deprived of all chance of securing a subsistence, and of all inducement to accumulate property.
Mrs. Carr did not know that she had ever enjoyed her way of life more, on the whole, than since she had come to Ceylon. She liked lying down for the greater part of the day, and being sure of seeing something beautiful from the verandah when she could exert herself to look abroad from it. She liked being fanned by the punkah, and waited upon by five times as many servants as she wanted, and amused by Alice, and flattered by her husband's station; none of the trouble of which devolved upon her. But she did not know whether some friends of hers liked the place so well; she thought not, by Mr. Serle's grave manner, and the new expression of fear and anxiety in Mrs. Serle's open and happy countenance. Mr. and Mrs. Serle were American missionaries; members of the little band of philanthropists who, setting the example of charity towards their Cingalese brethren, were met and cheered by the open hand of charity at every turn, till they were fairly established in the society and in the hearts of those whom they came to civilize and bless.
“I am glad you did not ask our advice about coming,” observed Mrs. Carr to the missionary's wife: “we find it very pleasant in Ceylon; but I do not know whether you find it as pleasant as we do; and it would have been a disagreeable thing to have misled you. I am glad you did not ask our advice.”
“Mrs. Serle comes to lead such a different kind of life from yours, my dear,” observed her husband, “that any advice from you could have helped her little. You see and enjoy all the natural advantages of the place, which are very great indeed: Mrs. Serle comes to do what she can towards remedying the misery of the people, which is quite as remarkable in its way.”
“And I beg to say that I enjoy the natural advantages of the place,” replied Mrs. Serle; “I like your Adam's Peak at sunrise, and your gay insects, and your flowery jungle, and your pineapples as well as any of you. I do not wish to be the less sensible of these things because the people claim my compassion.”
“Not the less, but rather the more,” observed her husband, “that the misery of the people may be the more quickly remedied. When we find starving men in a paradise, our next business is to find out whose fault it is that they are starving.”
“They are the laziest people here,” drawled Mrs. Carr; “you will hardly believe till you have been here as long as we have”
“My dear love,” interrupted her husband, “Mr. and Mrs. Serle have seen far more of the people already than you can pretend to know, living within doors as you do.”
“O, but I assure you, I can tell Mrs. Serle such things as she will scarcely believe. The laziness of the people is really such as to make me wonder. Alice, love, come and tie my sandal. O, thank you, Mrs. Serle. I did not mean to trouble you, I am sure.”
Mrs. Serle did not need convincing as to the indolence of the Cingalese. It was quite as evident in them as in Mrs. Carr. Neither was she much in the dark as to the causes of this indolence. The probability of a remedy was the almost hourly subject of conversation between her husband and herself.
“You are very much wanted, you see,” observed Mrs. Carr; “I am sure it is a most happy thing for the poor people of this country that so many strangers come to see them and do them good. So many Dutch, formerly; and now so many English; and you and your friends from America.”
“I hope you think the obligation mutual, my dear?” said her husband; “You must not forget how many Dutch and English have made their fortunes here. I say nothing about the Americans; for our friends here have a very different object, I fancy.”
“O, it is an advantage to both parties, no doubt,” observed the lady; “I should never have had such an amethyst as this, in my cross, if Ceylon had not belonged to us, I dare say.”
“And I should only have been like any other young lady, instead of having seven servants when I go out,” remarked Alice,
“And our friend Belton would not have had that beautiful place of his at South Point to live in,” added Mr. Carr: “yet I hear complaints terrible complaints from the Company, about their losses in the cinnamon trade.”
“And I from some members of your government, about the expense of the colony,” said Mr. Serle. “Now, if the people are acknowledged to be in a low state, if the government complains of the expense of the settlement, and if the Honourable Company cannot always make its cinnamon trade answer, who gains by Ceylon being a colony?”
“It is usually supposed to be an advantage to an uncivilized country to be chosen for a settlement by a civilized set of people,” replied Mr. Carr.
“And I have no doubt that it is so, any more than I doubt the advantage to the civilized country of having some foreign half-peopled region to which her sons may repair, to struggle, not in vain, for a subsistence. I can never doubt the policy of persons of different countries agreeing to dwell together in one, that they may yield mutual assistance by the communication of their respective possessions and qualifications. If this assistance be yielded in a spirit of freedom, without any tyraunical exercise of the right of the strongest at the outset, this intercourse is sure to grow into a mutual and general blessing of incalculable value, if abused, by the sacrifice of the many to the supposed gain of the few, the connexion becomes an inestimable curse.”
“To the natives, certainly,” replied Mr. Carr. “We may observe that the prosperity of colonized countries is not to be measured by circumstances of climate, natural fertility, position, and so on, but by the policy pursued in their government. In the dreariest parts of our American colonies, for instance——I do not know whether you are acquainted with Canada?”
“I am; and with Nova Scotia likewise.”
“Well; in no part of those colonies arc the natural wealth and beauty to be met with which distinguish Ceylon; and in no part, I hope, are the labouring inhabitants to be found in so wretched a state as are too many here.”
“Nowhere; and I do not see that the circumstance of the labourers here being partly natives, and the rest, races long settled in the country, makes any difference in the estimate, while it is certain that they are affected by the common motives to industry and social improvement.”
“The people here are open to such motives. Witness the growing ambition of the cinnamon peelers, in proportion as their services are in request, and are rewarded with regularity. The Challias hold up their heads now, and dispute precedence with other castes; and so would other labouring castes, if they had encouragement to do any better than crouch beneath the cocoa-nut tree, live upon what it may yield, and die when it yields no more.”
“The Nova Scotian is a far more prosperous man than either the native or the settler of Ceylon, though the Nova Scotian is not yet so happy as a perfectly wise government would allow him scope to become. He is not, like our neighbours here, prevented from selling one kind of produce where he pleases, while he is discouraged in the preparation of another kind by excessive taxation. The Nova Scotian can prepare his fish, and carry it where he likes for sale.”
“How rejoiced would our people be to have the same liberty with their pearls and their spice!”
“Yes: but the Nova Scotian has his trammels too, though they are far less grievous. He envies his neighbours of my country, of the United States, as much as the Cingalese may envy him. When he has sold his fish in the wide market which the Brazils afford, he may not take in exchange any Brazilian article that will be most wanted in Nova Scotia. There are many Brazilian commodities which your government will not allow its American colonies to purchase; so that its Nova Scotian subject must return with something of less value, or go home by a round-about way, exchanging and exchanging, till he finds an article that he may lawfully carry. My countryman, meantime, makes the best of his way home with a cargo of something that Brazil wants to sell and the States are ready to buy. This freedom from impediment in his traffic gives him the advantage over the Nova Scotian, as the comparative freedom of the Nova Scotian does over the Cmgalese.”
“And this countryman of yours, or his father, was a fellow-subject of mine. Truly, he seems better off' than when we were under the same king.”
“And how is your country the worse for his being no longer your fellow-subject, for his country being no longer a British colony? Do you buy and sell less of each other? Do you steal one another's trade? Does not America rather deal the more largely with you, the wider and more rapid is her traffic with the rest of the world?”
“Your argument would go to prove that we should be better without colonies; but what will our merchants say to our parting with markets into which we can empty our warehouses?”
“As to being better without colonies, we agreed just now that colonies are good things both for the natives and the settlers, while the one class wants to be civilized and the other to find a home of promise. Let this connexion be modified by circumstances as time rolls on, the child growing up into a state fit for self-government, and the mother country granting the liberty of self-government as the fitness increases. If the control be continued too long, if the colony be not admitted to understand, and allowed to pursue its own interests, its interests must languish, and it will become a proportionate burden to the mother country. It will have only the wages of ill-paid labour, or the scanty profits of feeble speculation to exchange for the productions of the mother country, instead of a store of wealth gathered by commerce with the whole world. Which is worth the most to England at this moment, Ceylon, her servile dependency, or any province of her band of commercial allies, our United States, I leave your merchants to say.”
“It is true, we get nothing now in taxes from your States; but we get incalculably more as the profits of trade; while the heavy taxation of Ceylon will not nearly pay its own expenses, and the mother country must defray the remainder.”
“So much for keeping colonies for the sake of their trade. This notion involves two assumptions; that the colony would not trade with the mother country if it were no longer a colony, and that colonial monopoly is a good to the mother country.”
“The very term ‘colony trade’ involves the notion of monopoly: since, if there were no monopoly, the distinction would be lost between that and any other sort of free trade.”
“Well; if the exclusive trade with the mother country be the best for the interest of the colony, the colony will continue it, after the compulsion is withdrawn. If it be not for the interest of the colony, neither can it be so for the parent; since the interest of the seller demands the prosperity of the customer; and the welfare of the whole demands the welfare of its component parts.”
“Indeed, our colonies are too often used as a special instrument of forcing the means of production into artificial channels, to serve the selfish purposes of classes, or companies, or individuals.”
“Thereby ruining the interests of these selfsame classes, companies, and individuals. If any class of merchants call succeed in making them:selves the only buyers of any article from a colony, or the only sellers of any article in it, they may for a time dictate their own terms to their slaves: but not for long. They may stock the market at home with precious things which they get as cheap as stones and straws in the colony; but their mutual competition will soon bring down the price to the common rate of profit. And if not, if the merchants agree upon a price and keep to it, the colony will not long fulfil its part in this unequal bargain. A losing bargain must come to an end sooner or later; and labour being discouraged, and capital absorbed in the colony, the merchants will inevitably find their supplies fall short.”
“I was going to ask,” observed Mrs. Serle, “why the colony need act in such a bargain? If it had any spirit, it would refuse to traffic.”
“Its power to do so depends on the nature of its supplies from the mother country. If it derives only luxuries, it may resist oppression by declining to receive the luxuries of the mother-country, and it may defy oppression by devising luxuries for itself. In these cases, the mother-country sustains a pure loss of the trade. If the colony is dependent for necessaries, it can defy the oppressor no further than by using the smallest possible quantity. Few people discern much value in the trade of a country whose population barely lives. Such a commerce will not repay the trouble of maintaining a monopoly.”
“It does seem to me, certainly, that if any compulsion is used at all, it should be to oblige the colony to sell to none but the parent. If it can buy cheaper elsewhere, so much is saved of the resources of the empire. It would be a loss to the British empire to have Ceylon buy its wine from London alone, if wine might be obtained cheaper from Madeira. The extra price which the carriage and the profits of the middlemen would demand, would be just so much withdrawn from the customer's means of production and of future purchase.”
“And the case is no better when the prohibition regards selling from the colony. If the colonial article produces just the ordinary profits of stock, the purchasing country takes needless trouble in enforcing the monopoly. If less than the ordinary profits of stock, the article will cease to be produced. If more, the purchascr may feel perfectly secure of being thanked for her custom, instead of its being necessary to intrude it by force of law. All this applies as well to a trade-driving government, or an exclusive company, as to a general body of merchants; the only difference being that such a government or company, having a more despotic power by the absence of competition, the tyranny may be consummated sooner, and the mischief wrought more effectually. Your government keeps its pearl-fishers, and your Honourable Company its spice-gatherers, impoverished more effectually than a general body of British pearl and spice merchants could have done.”
“Yet the general body of merchants can carry on the work of impoverishment with tolerable vigour and success, even upon a dependency so near at hand as to have great facilities for remonstrance. In the case of Ireland, towards the close of the last century, they contrived to rivet the chains of monopoly for a few years longer, after having done wonders in beggaring the Green Island.”
“They were helped by the country gentlemen there, my dear,” replied Mrs. Serle, who was an English woman, “and by the manufacturers and shipowners and others. I remember how my grandfather used to talk after dinner about the ruin which would come upon us all if the Irish, with their low wages and light taxation, were allowed to get their own sugar from the West Indies, and to pay for it with some articles of their own produce. And my uncle Joe and the curate used to agree that we were quite kind enough already to Ireland in giving her permission from year to year to send beef and butter to our colonies, and to clothe her own troops, then serving in America, with her own manufactures. The squire and the clergyman and the shopkeeper in the next village got up a petition to parliament against letting the Irish have any more trade, lest they should spoil ours.”
“And Liverpool expected to dwindle into a fishing village again, and Manchester that her deserted factories would become the abode of the owl and the bat; and Glasgow pleaded an hereditary right to the sugar trade which lreland must not be permitted to invade. Where this right came from it was for Glasgow to say; but, in enforcing it, Glasgow seemed much tempted to sink audacious Ireland into the sea. It is a pity, my dear, that your grandfather did not live to see Liverpool at the present day, after tea times as much having been granted to Ireland as was titan asked for. In proportion as the commerce between England and Ireland has grown into the similitude of a coasting trade, the prosperity of Liverpool and many another English town has increased, while the resources of Ireland (however deplorably cramped by bad government to this day) have steadily though slowly improved. The same fears, the same opposition, were excited, I think, Mr. Carr, when a relaxation was proposed in some departments of your Company's monopoly, and with the same results.
“Yes. There was an idea, some time ago, that nothing remained to be done in the way of traffic with India. It was thought that the private trader could find no new channels of commerce, and that India could not benefit in any way by a change.”
“Can anything equal the presumption of human decisions on untried matters!” cried Mr. Serle. “Did your Company really amply supply the whole of India with all that Hindoo hearts and Mahomedan minds could desire? Was nothing more wanted by a people who died by thousands ill a year for want of salt; who fell sick by hundreds of thousands for want of clothing, habitations, and the wholesome arts of life, and who groaned by millions under privation and excessive toil? If your Company thus reported itself the faithful and wise steward, giving to the people under him meat in their season, I, for one, would have besought, in that, day as in this, to have him cast out. His weeping and gnashing of teeth would have been unheard amidst the shout of joy when the door closed behind him.”
“Well, but he was not cast out,” said Mrs. Serle. “He was only compelled to relax his rude. Was there any rejoicing?”
“Much, very much, my dear. The direct commerce between England and India has already been more than doubled. Private traders have proved that there were still desirable articles that India had not. and that more and more became invented and wished for in proportion as people are allowed to minister to each other. I question whether any man will be again found between this and doomsday to say that India cannot want any thing more, and that there is nothing left for anybody out of the Honourable Company to do.”
“The persuasion arose,” observed Mr. Carr, “from the character of the people, their wants being so simple and few, their domestic habits and pursuits so uniform, and their resort to the productions of their own country so invariable, that they did not seem to need anything that foreigners could give.”
“Shut an infant into a dungeon, and bring him out when he is twenty,” said Mrs. Serle, “and, if he has never tasted anything but bread and water, he will want no other food. than bread and water. If his dress has always been sacking, his ignorant choice will be of sacking still, though broadcloth be lying” beside it. But have patience with him till he has tasted beef and wine, and seen every other man of twenty dressed in broadcloth, and by the time he is thirty, we shall hear no more of his simple tastes, and of his resort to primitive productions. Our ancestors, Mr. Carr, had a very simple taste for acorns of native growth: they resorted to native productions, wolf-skins, for clothing; their pursuits were uniform enough, picking up acorns and hunting wolves; they gathered round their murderous wicker deity, as the Hindoos round the pile of the suttee; and the one people venerated the mistletoe as the other glorifies cow-dung: nevertheless, here are we at this day, you dressed in broadcloth, and I in silk, and both of us philosophizing on civilization. Why should it not be the same with the Hindoo in due time?”
“And before so many hundred years as it took to civilize the Britons,” observed Mr. Carr. “The exports from Great Britain to the countries east of the Cape have quadrupled since the relaxation of the monopoly; and the difficulty now is for traders with India to find returns lot the variety of goods demanded by India. Formerly, England paid in gold and silver; now we pay ill iron, copper, and steel, in woollens and cottons, and in a hundred other articles, of which few Hindoos dreamed a century ago. India sends back indigo,—the best of a very few articles which may be imported into Great Britain by individuals. Whenever the day shall arrive for the Company's monopoly of China to be abolished, tea, mother-of-pearl, and nankeens, will afford a larger variety, India will make a new start in the career of civilization, and Great Britain a mighty acquisition in her foreign commercial relations.”
“In all the cases you have mentioned,” observed Mrs. Serle, “the restrictions have been imposed with a view to the welfare of the mother-country, and at the expense of the colony. Are there not cases of a reverse policy?”
“Many; but here, as in many cases, the reverse of wrong is not right. Whether it be attempted to enrich the parent at the expense of the child, or the child at the expense of the parent, a great folly is perpetrated, if, by letting both alone, they might enrich each other. Perhaps the most flagrant instance of this kind of impolicy is the management of the British timber trade. Your government, Mr. Carr, loads Norwegian timber with excessive duties, that the interior timber of Canada may have the preference in the market. By this means, not only is Norway deprived of its just right of priority, and Britain of a useful customer, but Canada is tempted to neglect some very important processes of improvement for the sake of——”
“Of pushing the lumber trade,” interrupted Mr. Carr. “I am aware that the Canadians carry their felling, squaring, and floating of timber a great deal too far, to the injury of agriculture, and of the condition of the people in every way. I am aware that any depression of this artificial timber-trade, however felt by mdi-viduals, is a decided gain to the colony at large. Great Britain has, in that instance, made a sacrifice in a wrong place.”
“And what a sacrifice! If no partiality were shown, Great Britain might have unexceptionable timber from Norway, and from Canada a supply of the corn she so much needs, instead of the indifferent wood, from the use of which her houses and her shipping are suffering. Let her still procure wood from her colony, which may serve the inferior purposes for which its texture fits it; but to refuse European timber, and persist in building frigates and dwelling-houses which shall hold out only half as long as they might last for the same money,—the people crying out all the while for Canadian wheat,—is a policy whose wisdom is past my comprehension.”
“Such is generally the result, it seems to me,” observed, Mrs. Serle, “when one party is grasping, and a second self-denying, in order to exclude a third. The matter generally ends in the injury of all three. If they would only follow the old saying, ‘Live and let live,' all would do well,—all would do best.”
“Where is that rule so violated as here?” said Mr. Serle. looking abroad from the verandah upon the approach of a fleet of barks with firewood, for the nightly sacrifice to the Moloch of monopoly. “Your colonial government here, Mr. Carr, manages to live, to sustain itself by shifts and devices; but as to letting live, let the extinguished fires on the shore, and the cry of the jackal in the woods, bear their testimony.”
“And your evening countenance,” added his wife. “I almost dread to see you come home from visiting your neighbours.”
“Mamma said yesterday,” observed Alice, “that she wished Mr. Serle would stay away, unless he would look as merry as he used to do. She says——”
“My dear love, what can you be thinking of?” cried Mrs. Carr, now roused to something like energy of manner.
“She is thinking of your happy exemption from beholding the signs of suffering which are daily brought before my eyes in the pursuit of my vocation,” mildly replied Mr. Serle. “But if I were to stay away till I saw nothing to make me look grave, if I were to stay away till I saw the men grow honest, and the women cheerful, and the children comely, till there were no struggles of poverty by day, or of death by night, I fear we should both be grey-haired before we could meet again.”
Mrs. Carr did not mean anything, by her own account; and the group were, therefore, left to ponder the full significance of the missionary's word.